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I’m Not Perfect: Dealing with Inadequacy as a Military Spouse

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I have a confession to make: I’m a perfectionist. While I don’t expect perfection of the people around me, I expect it of myself… all the time. And let me tell you, that gets pretty tiring. Since I can’t achieve perfection, it can make me feel a little crazy.

Being a military spouse has amplified my feelings of inadequacy. You see, before I got married, I had a career path. I knew where I was going. Getting married to a handsome sailor shattered all of that– I had to pick up and begin again… and again. That meant dreaming of a new future and letting go of the other “lives” I had imagined. That meant learning the ropes of a new job (or in my case, a few new jobs), figuring out how I “fit” into our new surroundings, meeting a bunch of new people connected to my husband’s command, and realizing that I had zero friends in our new town. That meant feeling inadequate. a lot.

Meanwhile, my civilian friends—who have been following their career paths since we graduated—began hitting their stride in their positions. My military spouse friends were racking up commendations and awards, too. Don’t get me wrong: I was (and am!) genuinely happy for them. They’ve worked hard and they more than deserve to reap the rewards of their diligence and skill.

But I couldn’t help but feel stuck. A giant magnifying glass was hanging over my head, making all of my shortcomings more noticeable, making me feel smaller. I wondered what people must think now that I wasn’t as “successful” as I once had been. I worried about what my husband thought—I certainly didn’t feel like the same person he married. I looked in the mirror and didn’t exactly like who was looking back.

Inadequacy as a Military Spouse

I’m learning to take it all in stride now. Here’s how I’ve begun to deal with inadequacy as a military spouse:

1. Take a deep breath.
It’s okay to have a momentary freak out or good cry. Acknowledging those feelings is a healthy, human thing to do. Don’t force yourself to suck-it-up-and-deal… especially if you can’t do that just yet. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a few seconds. It does wonders for clearing your head and calming your body.

2. Identify your feelings.
Knowing exactly what triggers your feelings of inadequacy is helpful in figuring out how to deal with them. Do you feel better about yourself when the house is cleaned and picked up? When you work to-do list is cleared? When you don’t use electronics as often? Pinpoint them and then make a plan to work around those things.

3. Speak well of yourself.
As military spouses, we’re used to deferring. “Deployment was tough,” we say, “but my husband had it the worst.” “I’m just married to him; he’s the one who serves his country.” “I work at the PX; he’s the one who’s keeping us safe.” You know those statements. You’ve probably said them before… I know I have. Be humble, but don’t forget to speak well of yourself, too. Especially when it comes to your inner dialogue. Don’t call yourself stupid or an idiot. Give yourself the room to make mistakes and pat yourself on the back when you do something great. It’s okay to be proud of who you are and what you do—even if it’s not kicking down doors or sailing the seven seas.

4. Take social media with a grain of salt.
For many of us—especially those of us who work from home or stay at home—social media is our water cooler. I check in regularly because, if I don’t, I’ll often not “talk” to another person until my husband comes home. While it can keep us in touch with loved ones, it can also help to amplify those feelings of inadequacy. Great vacations! Picture-perfect kids! Crafts that make Michaels’ artists shame-faced! Job promotions and honors! Remember that social media is curated so that people only show what they want the world to see. Usually you’re seeing the best parts of someone’s life—not all of the messiness. Keep that in mind.

5. Trust, trust, trust.
This is tough for me because I want everything to happen on my time. It’s hard to step back and give my total and complete trust to God—during the good times and the bad. He’s got it all in control… and when it comes down to it, I have absolutely nothing in control. But I’ve got to do it. Every single minute of every single day.

6. Celebrate!
It’s easy to forget to celebrate your milestones. After all, was it really that great to begin with? (If you’re a perfectionist, you know exactly what I mean!) Take time to celebrate your accomplishments and achievements. Remind yourself that you have worth and are doing important things—for your career, your family, and your community.

Jo my GoshJo is the author of Jo, My Gosh! a blog about her journey as a newlywed military wife. When she’s not working from home, she’s writing, reading, trying new recipes, watching sports or cross stitching. Catch her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook and say hi!

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  1. Great action items.

    As a currently non-deployed long rifleman (probably the worst of the worst for perfectionism), I can relate. I was lucky to have goo mentors; they pointed out that practical accuracy at 1000 yards meant that even a perfect shot was going to land in a circle about the size of a dinner plate.

    It helped so much…having people who’d walked the walk, to tell me, “Look, this is the limit of what you consider perfect…just a center-mass is GOOD, and perfect means that the target’s down, anyway.”

    Success is in the results…and to be happy in your skin, that’s perfect.

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  3. Thank you for posting such an honest view of what new military spouses experience. I am at a place where I feel completely at a loss for what my next step should be career-wise and am really struggling. It brings some comfort to know I am not alone in this struggle. Thanks again.

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